A copious amount of blood, sweat, tears and other bodily fluids have already been spilled over Mass Effect 3′s (ME3) ending. Several of the first few Google results concern the overwhelmingly negative fan reaction in some way, be it in the form of an online petition or a silly FTC complaint. The laser-like focus on the ending is a damn dirty shame, because outside of those five minutes at the very end of the game and a shaky first hour or so, ME3 is about as good a series finale as I could have hoped for.
ME3 gave me extremely gratifying conclusions to pretty much all of the lingering conflicts spanning the series. That's why I find it odd that so many of the complaints center around the lack of "closure". Almost every major character & race gets their arc tied up in a nice little bow-a thrilling, sometimes touching, and often gut wrenching bow. On top of that, there is a ton of NPC to NPC interaction that was sorely lacking in the previous games (the Garrus-Wrex banter that I've wanted since ME1 finally came about), providing that extra layer of depth that ME1 and ME2 never could quite attain.
ME3 is a wonderful thematic success as well. Shepard's desperation and weariness is almost palpable, and the entire galaxy feels blanketed in a crushing sense of dread. For example, this sense of urgency is put to excellent use during the Quarrian Fleet segment. The sheer madness of the Admirals' plans for war with the Geth ("Does NOBODY care about the all-powerful robots that are killing everything!?!?!") had me almost breaking my mouse on the Renegade interrupt to sock Han'Gerrel and throw his stupid ass off the Normandy. Thus, the beautiful reconciliation of the Geth and Quarrians (not to mention Legion's death) carried so much dramatic weight that I still get goosebumps watching videos of it. The game is filled with moments like this (with the Tuchanka mission also deserving recognition), making it an emotional roller coaster in the purest possible sense.
As for the ending…this is probably the part where I'm expected to launch into a full-on tirade about how it's awful and painful and ruins the game. I won't be doing that. Don't get me wrong, I didn't care for it. I certainly won't try and defend it in any substantive way, though some are valiantly doing so against the tide of internet hate. While I think I understand what they were trying to do there, it suffers from a gross lack of exposition. Still, I refuse to write off the game on the basis of those final five minutes, simply because it is only five minutes. I stated on Twitter right before I finished the game that it would have to make my computer explode to erase all the warm, fuzzy feelings I had already experienced. It did not do that.
That said, I'm of two minds to a certain degree on whether BioWare should retcon the ending a la Fallout 3 and Portal. On one hand, artists are by no means obligated to tailor their work to suit the tastes of the audience. If George Lucas wants to go back and alter the original Star Wars films or make terrible prequels, he can do that. If it's bad, then by all means be as harshly critical as is warranted, but don't try to say he's in the wrong or "ruining" anything from the original films. On the other hand, if BioWare saw fit to add an appropriate level of exposition to that final sequence, I certainly wouldn't mind.
In any case, I got 90% of what I wanted from Mass Effect 3. Almost every major plot thread was addressed in a satisfying way and the characters that I wanted to see more of got their screen time. By the time Illusive Man was dying and the magic space elevator or whatever took me to meet the Star Child, I was already pretty happy, and nothing can undo that. Not even inexplicable multicolored explosions.
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